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FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM


OR

WHY

LEFT THE CHURCH

BY

JOSEPH MCCABE
(Lately

Very Rev. Father Antony, O.S.F.)

LONDON

WATTS &

CO.,

17,

JOHNSON'S COURT, FLEET STREET


1896.

He:

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

IT

compare the calm


its

a familiar practice of the rhetorical defender of a religious sect to security of his Church amid the ceaseless conflict of adversaries to the security of an island that is sheltered by a rockis

coast from the sleepless fury of the ocean. Its members are to smile at the convulsive movements to which each taught succeeding

bound

age gives birth, to regard them as the waves of a restless element that spends its vain fury for a time on their frontiers only to fall at length in Storm helpless confusion at their feet and retire into its native depths. after storm has lashed their iron shores, until men's hearts were troubled at the deepening gloom and the wild chaos of the elements ; but the sun has shone forth once more in radiant triumph, and the whitened
clifl^have smiled grimly on the retreating sea a typical picture of permanence in this restless universe. But the fatal fallacy of rhetoric
lurks here, as in so much of the ornate language with which shallow There is no speakers calm the disquietude of unreflecting multitudes. immoveability in the universe from the tiny atom to the most colossal
:

The constancy of an iron-bound coast an illusion, a hasty and superficial estimate. Slowly, but surely, each line of beetling cliffs that seems to scorn the fury of the ocean is Each wave that breaks in seeming falling a 'victim to its ravages. has inflicted an irreparable injury upon it, and prepared the impotence way for its successor each tide that gently murmurs at its feet is weakening its foundations. And the days will come when its worn and enfeebled structure will yield, and the fairest lands become a prey to
sun
all is

motion and change.

is

the devouring waves. Thus also do those think


vicissitudes

who have
during

seriously

pondered over the

centuries. Their have weakened the bonds of union, and dissipated internal conflicts their forces in fratricidal strife ; political power has emancipated itself from their usurped dominion, and often in reaction resorted to violent measures while the waves of thought that have swept over civilized Europe during the last century and a half have riven their foundations

of the Churches

the last

few

and devastated some of


familiar to their prophets

their fairest

provinces.

No

strain

is

more

of these latter

days than the decay of faith

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

and the poisoning of the wells ; the solitary cry of a religious writer does but accentuate more strongly the ominous silence, if not the
anti-religious character, of all literature that
is not professedly apologetic. Rationalism, with its cold, impartial analysis of sacred documents, made the first deep impression on theological structures ; strive as men will

to dilute their dogmas into some proportion with modern knowledge, the power of ecclesiasticism cannot be the same to any thinking man after so grave an impeachment of its credentials. Philosophical criticism, armed as it now is with the thoughts of the great minds of

every age and every clime, has thrown so powerful a light on the weakness of the traditional philosophy, which must necessarily form the
basis of
their time

any structure of faith, that able men are found in making an irrational theology acceptable

to
in

spend

all

making

morals or sentiment, tradition or authority, a plausible approach to an act of faith. Physical science has revolutionized our view of our
is rapidly filling of the universe on which conception of a spiritual world.

environment, and

up the lacunae in a mechanical men would base their inferences

in vain

Apart from these great movements, that have cast huge waves not on the frontiers of religious sects, a steady erosive action has

been at work, preparing the way for their more effective ravages. Time was when all men's thoughts were infused into them by their guides and teachers, and they were content to acquiesce with unquestioning faith in the rules and motives of conduct instilled into them. But, "Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis? there has been so much disillusion in every province of thought and action, and, with the diffusion of knowledge, which we owe to a more complete education and a more accessible literature, men have grown more reflective and self-conscious, more determined to consciously control their destinies, As an instead of floating idly on the current of traditional usages. immediate consequence, men came to recognize that their religious professions and practices, in strange contrast to all other opinions and Man prided actions, had little or no explicit motive in consciousness. himself on being rational, yet here was a large province of opinions which he accepted (through a confused notion of faith which will not bear rational analysis) without the mental conviction of their truth, which he demanded in every other province. Thus the discussion of religious apologetics became popular, and was heard as frequently in

The simple arguments at first given by their religious guides were found inadequate to meet the criticism that permeated even the lower strata of the literary atmosphere ; moreover, religious teachers were discovered to be grossly ignorant of the
the workshop as in the academy.

changed aspect of the problem, and foolishly eager their flock against it by coercion and by calumny.

to seal the

mind of
it

But men found

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

difficult to make an act of faith in teachers whose own knowledge they could not gauge, and against whom were arrayed some of the deepest and sincerest thinkers of the age men whose minds were trained in

the school of mathematics and physical science, and who had drunk most deeply of the Pierian Spring of our most recent knowledge. man was born into a world that seethed with religious controversy ;

scores of conflicting sects claimed his exclusive allegiance, deafening the ear with their mutual anathemas, and the religious problem had become a veritable labyrinth, repulsive to enter.
It is

abandoning

not surprising, then, that thousands in every land are quietly all hope of rinding peace and permanence in any religious

establishment,

and are devoting themselves

to

more

solid

and

tangible

work

moral and social science the sciences that deal with those aspects of human life which do unquestionably demand our regulation.
in

Numbers are still struggling in the field of conflict, giving expression, in the melancholy note that marks contemporary fiction and poetry, to the pain and weariness of the barren discussion. Nothing is more
persistently depicted in literature than the wrestling of a strong soul with a vanishing belief ; nothing, we may infer, touches more deeply the great heart of humanity that loves to see itself reflected in literature.

However, the purpose of the following pages is not so much to survey anpV-summarize the results of modern thought in its bearings upon the religious question as to trace out the progress of an individual mind in

The story is familiar long search after truth on religious matters. but it seems not unwelcome at any time, and in the enough now-a-days, writer's case it would seem to be attended by circumstances that lend
its

a peculiar interest. It is the history of a mind that has traversed painfully the whole field of religious controversy, having moved from the most dogmatic of existing sects to a purely -negative or agnostic
it

attitude

of one, moreover,

who has been placed

in

a particularly

advantageous position for surveying the field of controversy, and whose only ambition it was, for years, to become an apologist for the creed he And the change has been wrought, has been forced to abandon. to say, almost exclusively from the study of religious evidences strange in themselves, without the aid of antagonistic writers, whose works are
jealously excluded under the narrow-minded despotism of the Church of Rome. few autobiographical details will perhaps make the

position clearer.
fell upon my mind at the early age of sixteen. shadow of the Franciscan church at Manchester, I Living under the had taken the resolution of becoming a member of the Order of St. The Francis, and had just adopted the costume of that fraternity. of the cloister, at least that portion of it which novices quiet atmosphere

The shades

of doubt

breathe,

had exerted

its

peculiar influence over me, flooding

my

being

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

Assisi, of Paul,

with visions of another world, making the ascetic life of Francis of and of Christ seem the very perfection of wisdom.
I

But high structures need deep and sure foundations, and soon

became

painfully conscious that I was sacrificing this real world, throbbing with life and hope, for a world that seemed but a vision floating in my

Of philosophy I knew nothing, nor did I then clearly imagination. see the import of the conflicting feelings that were already beginning to
darken

my

life

the thrilling joy and hope,

and the

chill,

cism that alternately nerved and depressed me.

On

dreary scepticonsultation with

my

novice-master, I was told to trust the guidance of the great minds

religion in all ages, to crush every thought, and It was sedulously avoid everything that could endanger my belief. poor consolation, yet I resolved to act upon it until my philosophical

who had defended

studies

commenced.

These

feverish eagerness,

but they ended in

entered upon a few years later with deep disappointment at the


is

empty, hollow-sounding verbiage that


vital

offered as proof of the

most

theses.

Silently

and devotedly

continued

my

task,

wandering
a future

throughout the whole range of apologetic literature thoughts that could help me to retain my belief in
life.

in search of living

God and

had the advantage

guidance of a

man who

that time, during seven years, of the was considered one of the ablest for the purpose,
at

and week after week I opened my mind's inmost recesses to receive his advice and direction. But, as my age and studies advanced, he ceased to be of any assistance to me ; his words were a repetition of the old,
threadbare
phrases, assertions without proof, science, of history, and of adverse theories.

misrepresentations

of

This threw
to think

me

how

little

almost entirely upon my own efforts, for it is painful deep reflection on fundamental religious questions,

how
finds

deplorable an ignorance of the most important points of faith, one on an intimate acquaintance with the clergy. Lay people scarcely

realize this, since they

to infer

from

but those

have only the prepared discourses of the clergy who have been behind the scenes of sanctuary
it is

work know how laborious a task

for the vast majority of preachers

to prepare a discourse on these points that are so widely and so eagerly discussed. However, I seemed at length to find sufficient evidence to
justify

me

in

position of preacher

continuing the life I had adopted, and in aspiring to the and teacher of religion. Ever and anon the clouds

me with pain and anxiety, and causing an almost chronic sadness that was remarked in me ; but, on the whole, I considered my position sound, and thought the difficulties were due rather
would gather, racking

temperament than to the inherent weakness of my opinions. After five years' study at London I was ordained priest and appointed to the chair of philosophy, thus obtaining ample opportunity to proseto defect of

cute

my

studies.

One

year

went to Louvain University, where

FROM ROME TO RA TIONALISM.


followed a course of

fundamental philosophy under one of the most

distinguished living exponents of scholastic philosophy, and an introductory course to Biblical Criticism under an equally distinguished Time wore on, and there was ever the same alternation of professor.

peace and storm, as

light and darkness flitted alternately over my mind. However, my thoughts were now more systematized, and the issues were gradually narrowing to a point at which it seemed possible to give
final decision.

The whole system


theories)

of beliefs to which

desired to
all

cling rested

logically (considering the

system in opposition to

other creeds and

upon four cardinal points, and my attention was soon concentrated upon these. The whole controversy between the Church of Rome and other Christian sects turns upon the dogma of Papal Then Christianity has, in face of the numerous and more Infallibility. extensive non-Christian religions, to vindicate its attribution of a divine
character, or at least of a divine mission, to its founder ; that resolves itself into a vindication of the authenticity and reliability of the Gospels.

But the two more fundamental points, over which my greatest troubles had arisen, were the existence of God and the spirituality of the human
as
I am aware that the spirituality of the soul may not be regarded an essential point of rational theology we may accept it from revelation, which does not necessarily pre-suppose it. Still, it is for most men a doctrine to be substantiated by human reason, and in point

soul.

of fact the

Church of

Rome

authoritatively declares

it

to

lie

within the

If we cannot rebut the materialistic pure philosophy. conception of man, a positive revelation has little chance of acceptance. These are the main points that absorbed my attention for years, and

province of

intend to treat them seriatim, pointing out the successive positions my mind took up with regard to them, and how I came finally to reject them after a conscientious consideration of all that has been written in
I

their defence.

GOD.

From

the earliest ages thinkers have devoted

themselves to the

task of providing a rational basis for that belief in a Supreme Being which, in more or less attenuated form, history shows to be co-extensive The majority of men, in time and space with human intelligence.
little

superficial
this, their

addicted to introspection, can give no reason, or only mutter a few and crudely assimilated phrases, when asked for the motive of

fundamental

belief.

A theologian would
A

say that

God

has pro-

vided a mysterious power, called faith, that links securely the minds of more matter-of-fact observer the unthinking majority to their belief.
either that they never reflect on the fact that they take this traditional doctrine with little or no proof, or that, from an instinctive

would see

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.


from a confusion of the provinces of

feeling of the difficulty of the problem, they readily acquiesce in the

most
faith

superficial arguments, or,

and reason, they consider it unlawful to indulge in speculation on the problem at all. But the more reflective, and their number is legion know that faith the acceptance of a doctrine on divine authority now, necessarily presupposes a knowledge of God, acquired and verifiable by
rational methods. Hence it is that from the very dawn of philosophy, from the earliest days when the human mind became capable of taking a larger and more penetrating survey of its environment, it has been

actively

engaged in constructing a bridge from the visible world to its supposed invisible maker. We have now before us, in every form, from the ponderous tome of the mediaeval theologian to the penny tract, a
curious and extensive collection of arguments for the existence of God as strange and conflicting a group as the forms which that higher

power has successively assumed in the changeful consciousness of men. There is a point in this numerical multiplication of arguments. We are asked to take them as so many converging lines of inquiry, so that, even if individually they seem unable to bear a strict logical analysis, a strong probability arises from the mere fact of their convergence towards a common centre. we But there is little value in such a contention are only too familiar, from the history of science and philosophy, with the facility with which arguments can be accumulated for a position which it is thought desirable to maintain. And then we must remember the mutual antagonism of the advocates of these various branches of The arguments of Socrates and Plato were thrust aside by inquiry. Aristotle to give way to his own more solid structure of proof. The Alexandrians and Augustine shelved Aristotle, and restored Plato to honour. The Arabs of the twelfth, and the Schoolmen of the thirteenth, century rehabilitated Aristotle's proofs ; now both they and Aristotle have once more fallen into disrepute, their methods are pronounced useless, and despairing efforts are made to find a new foundation for the tottering structure. Everywhere are conflict and dissension. Newman
;

anathematizes us for not admitting the existence of God, pointing out with Kant that conscience is the only valid basis of proof, and that metaphysical argument is valueless ; the majority of his learned confreres

condemn

his

method, and anathematize us

for not trusting their meta-

There is unanimity on one point that the physical disquisitions. existence of God is clear, and cannot honestly be denied ; but we need
hardly go beyond the pages of religious writers for a refutation of the

innumerable proofs which are supposed to point to it. However, certain arguments, which still have a wide acceptance,
for a sincere

call

and protracted examination, and among them the argument from the phenomena of conscience holds a conspicuous place in our

FROM ROME TO RA TIONALISM.

One is strongly tempted to regard it as an escape from the days. scepticism which centuries of discussion have naturally engendered, for only in these latter days has the discovery been made that conscience
furnishes a valuable proof of the existence of God. There is a terrible irony, not wholly unfounded perhaps, in the passage of Heine where

he describes Kant, after demolishing every other form of proof, reconstructing the Deity from the moral sense, to stem the tears of his aged

and superstitious

servant.

In the analysis of conscience it is necessary to distinguish the moral sense as such, the perception of the moral character of actions, from
the sense of obligation consequent upon the perception. Sometimes the argument rests upon the mere power of discriminating between moral and immoral acts, and it is urged that an idea of this specific character could not be evolved from non-moral ideas
;

more

frequently,

however, it is said that we recognize the necessity of a supreme legislator in the sense of obligation to fulfil the moral law, in the remorse that haunts its transgression, or the 'approval that smiles upon its fulfilment.

Now, taking conscience

in the first aspect,

it

is

difficult to find in

it

Take a anything that transcends ordinary psychological explanation. volume of moral theology, as it is elaborated in the Roman Church. First we find an analysis of conscience, which is purely naturalistic,
is entirely at variance with the popular tendency to make of conscience an isolated, supernatural gift an echo of the voice of God in man's heart ; it is described as human reason pronouncing certain

and-which

actions to be out of harmony with our rational nature, and prejudicial to the welfare of society. Sin or immorality is analyzed in like fashion an act is forbidden because* it is immoral, not immoral because God
;

to

forbids it; to be sinful an action must be either (i) directly opposed one or other prerogative of the Deity (and these sins stand or fall

with belief in God), or (2) prejudicial to society, or (3) injurious to our The same principle is acted upon throughout the whole neighbour.

complex system of morals, and yet we have Catholic

writers, like Dr.

Mivart, contending that moral distinctions cannot be explained by evolution ; while it is attempted to establish a legislator other than

humanity

for

a moral code which

is

exclusively concerned with the

interests of

humanity.
rests

Newman, who
from conscience,
science

declared he would be an Atheist but for the argument his inference upon the second aspect of con-

But

the feeling of constraint and the remorse that follows sin. from Roman surely, if the preceding analysis of the moral law (taken

theology) is correct, it has in itself a sufficient basis and sanction, and our natural impulse to observe it is easily understood. On the one

hand, we have the inherited experience of innumerable ancestors and the deeply impressed associations of our early training pointing out

!0

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

certain lines of conduct as moral ; on the other hand, we have the consciousness of our connection with a society from which our life

derives half its happiness, the knowledge that each immoral act and habit tends to undermine a state of society which it is our supreme interest to support and mind withdrawn from the influence develop. of religion feels no more than this; but this covers the whole

ground

to explain in conscience. need no higher legislator to classify our actions, and to impose upon us a sense of obligation to abstain from immorality.
it is

of the moral code, and

all

we have

We

Perhaps the most popular argument is drawn from the beauty and order and apparent purpose in the universe. In spite of the profound modification of the problem which evolution has effected, this remains the most familiar of all the Catholic proofs of the existence of God.
philosophers are indeed abandoning it as a distinct proof, but preachers (who are rarely thinkers) still linger affectionately over the venerable

argument, and poets and novelists with a taste for apologetics are ever putting our materialism to shame by their appeals to the glorious procession of worlds across the darkened stage of the heavens, to the thrilling

panorama of

earthly scenery, to the

monuments

of constructive

wisdom

in the organic worlds. their legitimate

But when we consign rhetoric and sentiment to provinces we soon realize that all we can reasonably

hope

universe.

to discover are the efficient causes, not the final causes of the " " It is only by postulating intelligence in the First Cause

of a purpose speak of the necessity of a "controlling mind," a " designer and ruler," they are only subHow can we conceive matter stituting mystery for mystery at the best. to act in obedience to a lawgiver ? It is easy and impressive to speak

(after postulating the First Cause itself) that or finality in the world-process. For when

we can speak

men

of the issue of an omnipotent Fiat, and the obedient movement and development that brought order out of chaos ; but remember that obedience is a metaphor taken from the moral world. How can this dull, dead, inert matter we have so much depreciated carry out so How can unconscious atoms realize faithfully the decree of its maker ? so sublime a conception ? There is only one conceivable meaning for the expression namely,

God implanted certain powers in matter, endowed it with certain active properties, through whose slow, inevitable action the universe was formed. If material forces do not suffice, add spiritual agencies ;
that
in

universe
is

the ultimate analysis you will have merely discovered that the is the product of certain factors, and, as far as this argument concerned, the factors may have been themselves eternal and un-

caused, or they may have been the unconscious evolution of a supreme That they were created for the express principle in a Pantheistic sense.

purpose of realizing a definite plan cannot be proved a posteriori ; we

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.


must
first

\\

first cause was capable of preproved to have been caused at all. Thus it appears that no specific argument can be drawn from the complexity of organic structures, or from the order and harmony of the inorganic world. After reading Paul Janet's classical work on the subject, " Les Causes Finales," I came to the conclusion that it was quite useless, apart from

learn independently that the

vision, if they are

the influence of evolution.


to the argument which did support my Theistic beliefs considerable period the metaphysical argument. Uneducated people are frequently heard to remark that they think of God mainly
I

now come

for a

as the

maker of the universe their mind recognizes its insufficiency, and postulates a creator to explain its existence. It seemed to me that this position was confirmed on deeper philosophical inquiry, and that thus, even admitting the great world to be the necessary outcome of a primitive nebula, whose condensation sufficiently explained its structure and its contents, still we were bound to recognize a higher principle
;

beyond the nebula the author of its existence, its properties, its motion and primitive disposition. Thus what was lost in teleology was more than compensated. I could not enthuse with special emphasis over the marvels of the microscope and telescope, for I knew too well the secular process of development that explained them but the whole world seemed now to testify to a higher power, the grain of sand as eloquently as the starry universe, and I thought I had here a firm basis of Theistic belief which no progress of science would ever disturb. However, I felt I had not yet reached the deepest roots of the argument, and doubt and misgiving periodically took possession of me. When one is engaged in ministerial and professorial work in London it is difficult to find an opportunity for the severe task of honestly and
;

Last summer the rectorship belief. of a small college in the country was offered to me, which afforded me the necessary leisure and retirement. It was then that I finally

thoroughly examining the bases of

abandoned

all

hope of finding a basis

for Theistic belief.

metaphysical argument, or argument from causality, is frequently formulated in an obviously sophistical manner, just as the principle of In its improved form the causality itself is often a mere tautology.
" Whatever begins to exist has a cause," and conseruns, the non-eternity of the world would have to be proved before quently the principle could be applied. I was at one time under the impression
principle

The

be proved, but I soon came the argument an ingenious play upon words, such as In endeavouring to are notoriously common in scholastic philosophy. widen the application of the principle, Leibnitz discovered that it really " There is nothing sprang from a deeper and more universal principle,
that the non-eternity of the world could

to recognize in

without a sufficient reason," and this became the basis of the Theistic

12

FROM ROME

TO RATIONALISM.

It is usually formulated in this manner. The material argument. universe must have a sufficient reason for its existence, and for its

possession of
sarily
its

and
it

actual powers and properties ; either it exists necesessentially, and in that case we find the sufficient reason in
its
it is

own

essence, or

not self-existent,

why

actually exists in

when we must seek the reason some productive principle. Now, when we
it

reflect

on
;

all
its

our knowledge of matter,


it

seems clear that

it is

not

self-

existent

existence seems a pure contingency which


;

we can

easily

change motion

We

might have been eternally in rest, yet it is in properties might conceivably have been very different. must, therefore, postulate an eternal, self-existent being, distinct
in

thought

its

from the world, who gave

it

existence,

and

is

responsible for

its

actual

movement and
It will

distinctive characteristics.

surprise

many

that such an

argument should have been con-

sidered the strongest foundation of belief in God ; yet it is everywhere the principal support of rational theology. The study of metaphysics does, indeed, develop and strengthen the reasoning faculty, but it has

and the

the notorious effect of predisposing to a confusion of the subjective The metaphysician has ever been inclined to objective.

objectify his mental images

and

their connections

and

if I

had not

indulged largely in the study of historical and physical science, there is every probability that I should have continued to rest my belief in a
world, on the subjective play of thought which It contains just the same represented metaphysical argument. " as the popular way of thinking The world must have a cause ; fallacy there must be an infinite being somewhere." The " must " is a psychoreal, objective, spiritual
it

in the

logical
is

phenomenon, and nothing more a mental impulse or craving construed into an objective necessity. So it is in the philosophical

elaboration of the

same thought
is

self-existence, or necessary existence,

and contingency
into attributes

an antithesis of thought transferred illegitimately


the
or, rather,

expression of a law,

principle of sufficient reason is the a strong tendency of thought, which has been projected into the real world in the day-dream of the meta-

of things ;

physician.

Thus did

come

to the term of

my

inquiry,

and

taste the bitter fruit

of the tree of knowledge. Other arguments there are without number, sad monuments of the obstinate adherence of humanity to a faltering
belief.

as

they dissolved upon a severe and impartial analysis, over the yellow pages of the heroes of the school, or lingered devoured each new apologist who seemed so profoundly convinced of
I

One by one

the depth
in

and

originality of his evidences.

Like the famous character

Heine, I called piteously upon God, wandering in thought throughout the universe ; but the environing space and the mountain sides, the restless sea and the busy haunts of men, did but re-echo the despairing

FROM ROME
cry.

TO RATIONALISM.

13

And yet in bitter irony the Church of Rome was teaching, with characteristic feeling, that the existence of God was so evident that it
could not honestly be called into question. Its theologians spend half their time in destroying each other's arguments ; its priests are, to an

alarming extent, utterly unable to render a reason of the faith that is in them ; but its unity must be preserved ; and so the world is described as a mirror reflecting so brightly a divine power and wisdom that a man

must deliberately close his eyes not to confess them. Its fires have been extinguished, or, as it fondly hopes, slumber for a time until the
sceptre of

power is restored to its hands ; but persecution is still the " " from its flock. It may with which it wards off the wolves weapon be said that the impossibility of honest agnosticism is not an article of
faith

one

defined by the Church of Rome, but it is practically equivalent to it is a point on which there is a clear consensus of its theologians,
its

and

manuals of theology emphatically promulgate

it.

The

heretic

may be

piously trusted to be in good faith, but the Agnostic bears the mark of reprobation on his brow, more surely than the painted face under the street-lamp.

THE SOUL.
expectation of a positive revelation, which prepares the way to a large extent for its reception on indifferent evidence, is based upon the existence of God, tw..Q fundamental propositions of natural religion

The

and the spirituality and immortality of the soul. Once the material world comes to be regarded as a translucent veil that hangs for a time between a personal God and a human spirit vaguely conscious of a high destiny, the search for some positive message from behind the veil is natural and hopeful. If, however, these beliefs are themselves found to have little or no rational justification, the study of positive religions no longer presents itself as a matter of such vital importance and of so promising an issue. Consequently the ingenuity of the
religious

philosopher has exerted itself in every age in accumulating But if in the preceding motives for clinging to this world-wide belief.

case the arguments for the traditional belief have undergone many changes in the progress of thought, the same may be said with much more obvious truth in the present instance. The motives found in the

eloquent pages of Plato appeal to few minds of our generation ; the arguments of Aristotle and his scholastic commentators are discarded

even by most of their own modern followers. New arguments of the most approved and invulnerable type have been invented to meet the the critical mind of this rapidly maturing race, and even science has scared so many religious souls during the present phantom that century has been pressed into the service of spiritualist philosophers. But, if there is one point on which science has shaken the confidence of

men

in

traditional teaching,

it

is

on

this

question of the

14

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

possession by man of an immaterial soul. Metaphysics is, from the nature of the case, the ultimate court of appeal in such a question ; the

crude assertion that scientists reject the soul because the microscope, the skiograph, or the scalpel has never revealed it, is one of the choice
expressions invented by theologians, who never read scientists for the of their people, whom they will not allow to read them. Neither literally nor metaphorically is it a correct statement of the case.
satisfaction

The

is that there are two forces at work in modern physical which proceed satisfactorily until we come to human psychology, and which the scientist is naturally loth to relinquish at this point

truth

science,

until the gravest possible reasons are

claimed for

it.

On

the one
to

mony, the tendency


spirit against

shown for respecting the immunity hand we have this law of unity or parsirestrict as far as possible the number of ultimate

this is a natural protest of a sounder scientific ; the reckless multiplication of forces and principles of less enlightened ages, when all different sets of phenomena were attributed

factors of the universe

once to radically distinct principles, and supposed to be explained. the other hand there is the law of evolution the most brilliant discovery of the century which has shed so marvellous a light on the
at

On

past history of the world, and which now only encounters serious opposition when it deals with the origin of human intelligence. To show that
a mechanical or monistic view of the universe

and an acceptance of

evolution cannot include man, it is necessary to point to certain of his characteristics, which reveal the presence in him of a new and specifically distinct principle
;

until that

is

done the claims which evolution

and mechanicism derive from


be
set aside.

Difficulties in

their already universal application cannot their application there will be ; but diffi-

culties,

as

theologians

so

loudly

protest in other matters,

are

not

objections.

it

The philosophy which I taught was, of course, essentially dualistic takes a middle course between Materialism and Berkleian Idealism.
it

Moreover,
Plato's

teaches that the

human
is

soul

is

not an isolated

spirit,

as in

and Descartes's teaching,


;

in absolute contrast to the rest of the

universe

the immaterial world

interwoven
therefore,
I

with the material.


exercised,

The problem,

much more intimately on which my mind was


to

and

in the solution of

which

came

my

present attitude,

to establish clearly the frontiers of the immaterial world, where we could confidently face the rising tide of scientific naturalism, and say

was

" Here shall thy proud waves break." For I thought there was no sadder sight in the history of the century than the retreat of our
apologists from the untenable positions they successively occupied. Not only was this the case in Scripture and in history, but it was conspicuously true in those provinces of philosophy which they once peopled with immaterial principles. Whatever may be said of conser-

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

15

vatism as an abstract principle, its exemplification in the history of the Church of Rome, from its encounter with Galileo onwards, is not encouraging.
Aristotle
It is well to rest under the shadow of the authority of and the leading school men but we must remember that in questions which lie on the borderland between physics and metaphysics it was difficult to give a decision at a time when the development of the two sciences was so disproportionate. And the problem of vitality, about which philosophical tradition and the scientific revolution came into conflict, belongs to that neutral territory. The duty of the biologist is to extend his explanations as far as they are capable, and
;

the metaphysician may discuss the residuum, if there be any. It was held formerly, and is still held by many Catholic philosophers
to the orthodox practice of disregarding contemporary that the immaterial world first reveals its presence in plants. activity,

who adhere
There
terial,"
is,

unfortunately,
spiritual," etc.
;

much

confusion in defining the terms " imma-

it is sufficient to say that of plant-life (growth, nutrition, etc.) cannot be explained by the properties of the matter of which the plant is composed ; that, consequently, they reveal the working of

"

but for

my

purpose

they held (and hold) that the

phenomena

some

From this point principle in the plant which is not matter. to beat a retreat early in this century; curious survivals of it are still met with e.g.> in Lepidi, a modern Catholic

Im materialists began

It would be idle to discuss the conphilosopher of some reputation. troversy ; but the moral of the retreat is a serious one.

Plants were credited with an immaterial principle

a "soul," as they

did not hesitate to

because their properties were very different from those of ordinary matter ; the possibility of material forces procall
it

ducing widely different results when they enter into certain highly complex combinations came to be recognized as vegetable physiology,

and chemistry progressed. The

ammonia has
and

principle of the argument was unsound; remarkably different from those of hydrogen properties

nitrogen, yet some will say (many Catholic philosophers will say it) that a new principle must be introduced to explain the new properties, when hydrogen and nitrogen unite and ammonia is formed. So also

from the different properties of the plant, its vital activities, it was evidently illogical to demand the admission of an immaterial source for
them.

Now,
in the

the difficulty
"

is

that the
is

argument

for

"

an immaterial principle
character.

lower

animals

precisely of the

same

The

vital

forces in animals are very different from ordinary material forces ; hence it is inferred that they are not material forces they are the manifesta-

But mere difference of properties does tion of an immaterial principle. not suffice, as is proved from the earlier controversy ; what degree of
difference
is

necessary before

we

are logically justified in introducing a

16

/'A'CU/

ROME TO RATIONALISM.

new

? In the former case the philosopher's inference was founded upon the temporary imperfection of physical science. merely Now, biological science is making rapid progress how do you know it will not undermine your position here also ? Can any definite criterion of the immaterial be posited, or must we retreat step by step as the biologist advances, at each^step betraying the weakness of our logic?

principle

Remember that the last step is the spirituality of the human soul. For many years it seemed to me that such a criterion was available. The properties of mind are very different from those of matter. If we
are logical,

and

if

we remember a

little

controversial history,

we

shall

not infer forthwith that mind must be the manifestation of

spirit,

not an

But if we can show that the properties of mind outgrowth of matter. are not merely different, but contradictory, entirely opposed to those of No addition of matter, we may defy the progress of the Materialist.
non-entities will produce a being (except in the brain of a Hegel),

no

Now, consciousness give a number. itself is not a phenomenon of this character. There is, indeed, a vast gulf between the movements of the molecules of the brain and the
multiplication

of ciphers

will

states of consciousness

which accompany them

but

we have no

satis-

No factory reason for asserting that the gulf will never be traversed. Theist will deny that matter could have been endowed with consciousness, like Leibnitz's

monads,

if

the Creator so willed

in point of fact,

unorganized matter is not, but it is strange to infer that, therefore, When the organized matter cannot be the subject of consciousness.

new

relation

science of psycho-physics had pursued its investigations into the between cerebral changes and states of consciousness for a con-

siderable time,

system has
ferent

and when the comparative anatomy made equal progress, perhaps the problem However that may be, it is not proved aspect.
is

of the
will

nervous
dif-

wear a

that conscious-

ness

may

until that

not have arisen from an improved nervous structure, and done it is unlawful to introduce a new, immaterial element

into animal nature.

The

history of the past

and the elementary

rules

of logic forbid

it.

the scale of the animal kingdom, mere consciousness, takes the form of definite perception of external objects. are justified (in spite of Cartesians) in attributing sensitive perceptions like our own to the higher classes of animals at least. Now, it
irritability,

As we ascend

We

that sensation was the rock which would mark the and Materialism. It mattered little whether we could whersay precisely where definite sensitive perception began or not ever it began, we had the impassable frontier of the immaterial world. There seemed to be an indivisibility in the perceptive principle which

appeared to

me

limit of progress

clearly precluded clearly

the possibility of
divisible.

its

being material, for matter

is

as

compound and

We

perceive an object whole

and

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.


entire at a glance

17

; something within us must unify the various parts of the object, and perceive them simultaneously. If the brain is a sensitized plate on which the impression of the object is made, each atom

contained in the
is

group of cellules, over which the impression share of the impression ; but must there not be some simple, indivisible principle pervading the brain substantially united to it, to explain the synthesis of these partial perceptions ? Two
cellule, or
its

spread,

would have

objects are united in a judgment, and simultaneously perceived ; the act of reasoning is still more complex. In fine, there is a supreme

and

unity of the whole psychic life apparently pointing to the absolute unity simplicity of its substratum, whereas the nervous system becomes

increasingly complex. That is the argument

minded

spiritualists.

However,

which finds most favour with scientificallymy professor at Louvain and several

of the most distinguished Catholic philosophers rejected it, and through their criticism I came to see its weakness its confusion of undividedness

and

indivisibility.

troubled

me
It
is

atoms.

suggestion of Professor Huxley had always the brain might not actually be a congeries of separate that possible that Sir W. Thompson's theory of atoms

they are merely vortices in a continuous medium may be correct ; if In any case, granting that so, the basis of the argument is destroyed. be an efflorescence of nerve tissue, there consciousness may possibly

seemed no great
nervous system.

difficulty,

when

studied, in ascribing

the unity of conscious

the nervous system is thoroughly life to the unity of the

Thus my

criterion

proved

faulty,

and

am

unable to find any other

grave reason for thinking that a spiritual and imperishable substance The apparent freedom of the will dissolves underlies our mental life.

The power

study of the relation of motive to voluntary action. of reflection, from which springs the artistic faculty, does not present serious difficulty when we are dealing with a highlydeveloped nervous system, once the initial difficulty of consciousness is

upon a

careful

overcome.
all

Much

emphasis

is

often laid

upon the

fact that

we

are at

able to think about things spiritual ; it is implied that matter, howBut our ideas of the ever elaborated, could not rise to such a level.

of the infinite, are only negative, in so far spiritual world, like our idea as they represent the immaterial ; we abstract material characters and And limitations from our ideas of objects, and they are spiritualized. of fusion or generalization, no this of abstraction, like the power

power more postulates the

of spirituality of the principle

thought than does

the power of reflection.

Another argument that has become very popular is taken from the permanence or identity of consciousness at successive periods of life ; in favour it is here that science is supposed to give reluctant evidence

'i8

-FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

of the spiritualist philosophy. Science shows that within a comparatively brief period the entire matter of the organism is renewed ; whence,
then, triumphantly cries the psychologist, the identity of personal consciousness and the permanence of memory throughout so many I remember vividly a scene of twenty years ago transformations.
;

every particle of the matter of my brain has been renewed since then ; what has remained and retained the impression ? The structure of the
brain has remained, and, whatever be the obscurity of the physical basis of memory, it is certain that it depends upon changes made in the
structure of cellules, in a definite arrangement of their parts.

And

in

the renewal of the matter of the brain the minutest structures are un-

disturbed atom replaces atom with perfect fidelity. tion of an animal, when the tissues are replaced by
;

In the

fossiliza-

new

matter, the

most delicate structures are preserved if a phonogram were fossilized, the new matter would reproduce the original air as faithfully as the renewed brain reproduces the impressions of the past. If there is no satisfactory evidence of the spirituality of the
soul, the

question

of

its

immortality

is

superfluous.

To

entertain

the

thought

seriously,

substance, capable of tion or instrumentality

we must admit in man an thought and volition, without


of a
brain.
I

incorruptible the co-opera-

do
as

not
yet,

for

moment
exstill

consider

that

thought and

volition

are,

satisfactorily

plained as cerebral functions ; no one can expect it of a science But I see no proof that thought and volition have in its infancy.
intrinsic character evidently

any demanding a spiritual agency. All that is offered in the way of proof amounts to the assertion that they are at present very clearly and sharply marked off from all other forces. Science has bridged over many such gulfs in the past, and its constructive

power is intensifying every year. Moreover, it is easy to see the vast progress that has been made in that direction during the last half cenThe investigations of the psycho-physicist, of the pathologist, and tury. of the criminologist point exclusively in the direction of Materialism.

The

evolution of the nervous system in the human individual and in kingdom has a significance that points in the same direction. When Germany became sick of metaphysics, and commenced its
the animal
laborious

and brilliant career of physical science, it is remarkable how were replaced by a universal quickly its Idealism and Spiritualism In every country the number of brilliant, conscientious Materialism. thinkers who have rejected traditional belief, largely through the influis well known and deeply significant. Clearly the spirituality of the soul has not been too generously revealed to those who would most have benefited by its consoling promise.

ence of physical science,

CHRIST.

There are many who now look

to the figure of

Christ for

the

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

19

restoration of that faith in the spiritual world which modern Scepticism seems determined to undermine. In the world at large we read only naturalism ; the spirit-world is so completely veiled from our sight that

we

lose even our

own

spiritual identity.
its

Humanity once saw on the

Creator's attributes, dim and troubled as on the ruffled surface of a lake ; even that has passed away, and wearily it takes its life as part of the visible whole unvisited by faintest gleam of a brighter world. But we are told that a revelation has been

outspread world a reflection of

given more in proportion to our materialized ways of thinking ; the figure of Christ, appearing as the central point of the world's history, is a striking embodiment of the higher power that encircles our life,
to raise us from the naturalism to which we are ever succumbing by a revelation of supernatural wisdom, goodness, and

intended

power. In the
written

first

place,

it is

urged that the very triumph of Christ, as

it is

luminously on the history of the world, compels us to attribute For three years he traversed Judea, a to him a superhuman character. fervent and eloquent, but poor and untutored preacher ; his life seemed to end. in utter failure and ignominy. But, before the end of the first century, the sect that bore his name was rapidly spreading over the empire every conceivable form of persecution was tried in vain to
;

eradicate it ; and, when its adherents were at length free to come forth into the light of day, it soon became conterminous with the Roman And through 2,000 years it has retained its supremacy over empire.

Europe ; through the rise and fall and redistribution of empires, through the moral corruption that repeatedly crept over the land, through the intellectual movements that successive eras of peace have developed ;
so that to-day 300 millions of the most civilized races of the earth bend their knees in adoration before the crucified figure of the
Galilean.

For many
ecclesiastical

this brilliant

rhetorician,

is

triumph, enlarged upon unceasingly by the proof enough of the divinity of Christ's

mission

documents which purport


wonderful
life

they feel comparatively unconcerned at the fate of certain to give a description of the still more
of this leader.

Whatever may be thought of the doctrine

of the Incarnation, we catch a glimpse of the divine in this marvellous page of history ; a divine influence must have pervaded the world to

win and preserve such a veneration. Now, such a thought is intellia science, but a descriptive gible at a period when history was not and when Europe, with the sublime egoism of catalogue of events,
as

Judea or ancient Greece, looked down upon the rest of the human race " But there is more barbarians," in moral and intellectual matters. of analysis in modern history, and its vision is infinitely wider, power so that it is not surprising if inferences, drawn by a more superficial

20

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.


by
its

science, are rejected

more cautious and

reflective successor.

The

growth of Christianity has formed the study of some of our ablest and deepest historians, and their suggestions, founded upon an accurate and extensive knowledge of their science, throw sufficient light upon the phenomenon to prevent us from indulging in the hypothesis of a
supernatural influence.
traditional
ideas,

and the mere

Unfortunately, here again eagerness to retain spirit of controversy, stand in the way

of a calm and judicious discussion of the question. Take Newman's examination of Gibbon's celebrated analysis of the growth of Christianity;

a striking example of a hasty and insufficient study of an opponent's From the knowledge we now position for the purpose of refutation. have of the religious condition of the Roman Empire, it is not difficult to understand the transition from Paganism to Christianity of large
it is

numbers of
majority of

its

its

members, even members, with

in

their purely

the face of persecution ; that the external attachment to

Paganism, should have become Christians when they saw the change at
the imperial court
supernatural.

and the power of

its

priestcraft

broken,

is

still

less

Then, again, with the enlargement of our

historical

range of vision

we have the advantage of comparison with the growth of other religions. The proverb that history repeats itself is conspicuously true in the The whole story of Christianity had been enacted in rise of religions. The life of Buddha was the far East centuries before Christ was born.
and his moral teaching equally sublime the same mythical features had been added to it by his zealous followers. Buddhism has had more vicissitudes, and has, at the present day, more adherents than Christianity we have far less historical data to assist us in analyzing its growth than we have in the case of Christianity, yet we feel no apprehension that, in attributing it to natural causes, we may be neglecting some revelation of a higher power. To the impartial historian, whose views are subsequent, not antecedent, to his knowledge, Christianity is but one member of a large family of religions
as noble as that of Christ,
;

birth

Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, etc. ; its and life are similar to theirs ; its death will be like theirs ; like

man himself, it bears no peculiar marks to prove the supernatural origin and the immortality claimed for it. Thus, if it is true that the documents which describe the life of Christ are no longer worthy of implicit credence, we have no serious reason for thinking that Christ will lead us to a superhuman and supernatural
is,

life

then, the fundamental one. his actions in the Gospel, and


in

them

The historical question Have we an authentic description of must we recognize a superhuman agency This was always the one point of controversy, to my mind
rather than

Buddha

or Zoroaster.

moral arguments, such as the preceding, never seemed to

me sufficiently

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

21

And when we come to examine strong to bear such a construction. the documents which constitute the " New Testament " we notice at
once that the traditional view of
modifications as the
writers
their character has
beliefs.

of

we have seen in other the early Church it is


opinion, nor to the sixteenth

From

undergone the same the words of

clear that verbal inspiration

was

do we find much modification until we come and seventeenth centuries. From that period the extraordinary activity of critical analysis has worked
the

common

complete revolution in the educated world with regard to the Outside the Bible, and the New Testament has not been spared. Church of Rome inspiration has been virtually abandoned, and even in that heroically conservative institution the term has been emptied of all
meaning. There is no dogmatic definition of words in which the Councils incidentally describe
inspiration, and the it are of that elastic

and diplomatic character which the Church always uses when, with an
eye to future developments, it wishes to impress the uneducated majority without restricting too narrowly the liberty of the educated minority.

One eminent professor of Scripture used to tell me that he prayed for a dogmatic definition of inspiration from Rome ; another hoped that the Pope would not be so foolish as to lay down anything dogmatically at the present day. Ordinary Catholics are consoled by the Pope's
encyclicals
;

but Leo XIII.

will die like

Honorius or John XXII.

his

utterances can conveniently be laid aside as not ex-cathedra pronouncements whenever it becomes clearly necessary to do so ; even now they

only bind the expressions, not the thoughts, of Catholics. However, the hopeless controversy about inspiration is of little consequence ; the question is, Do the documents form an authentic and
reliable narrative of the

words and

life

of Christ

The answer must be

obtained by the impartial use of ordinary critical methods, by the examination of the evidence produced in favour of the truthfulness of
the

New

Testament.

Evidence may be either


itself,

internal, taken

from

cer-

tain features of the narrative

or external

other reliable documents to

its authenticity. trace the gospels to Matthew, Mark, etc.; if they are proved to be records of events by contemporary and credible witnesses, they are

the testimony of It matters little whether


that
is,

we can

worthy of credence. But that is precisely what we cannot prove them be ; the evidence adduced is hopelessly insufficient. There is internal evidence of some force found in the topography, the political
to

and the numismatics of the Gospels ; but that is useless, since does not extend to the only passages we are concerned about the words of Christ and his supposed miracles. These may have been inserted into a simple and truthful contemporary biography of Christ, or an earlier document may have been used to give colouring and We should have some basis plausibility to a much later composition.
allusions,
it

22

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.


Gospel story
it

for trust in the

writers that
Christ,

existed, as

if we had reliable assurance from known we now have it, immediately after the time of

events

that it had emanated from Jewish eye-witnesses of the It is not but nothing could be farther from the actual case. ; until the middle of the second century that we have any testimony in

and

favour of the authenticity of the Gospels worth considering. To quote Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp as witnesses to the authenticity of the

Gospels is absurd ; at the most their words only show that certain documents existed which subsequently appear in the text of the Gospel. Justin is the earliest writer from whom we can gather anything about the Gospels of a really useful character. He lived more than a century
after the

death of Christ.

Towards the This, therefore, is the true position of the question. middle of the second century A.D. certain documents appeared professing to describe the life of a religious teacher who had lived in a
remote part of the empire more than 100 years before. These documents, or gospels, are many in number, and all of unknown authorship ; they are in the possession of an obscure and fanatical sect, and many of them contain obvious absurdities. Gradually the more absurd are

denounced as apocryphal, and four are retained, which, together with some letters of one of the early Christians, form the " New Testament " of future ages. Could anything be more credulous than to put faith in
such
a biography, especially when we see how every great religious teacher has been credited with supernatural powers by his followers in the course of a century or two after his death ? The utmost we are

justified

in thinking of Christ is that he was a man of noble and generous life, with a singular influence over his fellow-men, which was counteracted by the intrigues of the priestcraft he so frequently In this denounced, and which ultimately brought about his death.

time

character he will remain one of the heroes of humanity until the end of but more than this it is unreasonable, amid the silence of ;

contemporary writers, to demand for him. The crucifix will ever be a symbol for the veneration of humanity not that it will cast its dark shadow over the world to chill and mortify the lives of men, but it will be a type, like Socrates' poison-cup, of moral heroism, of unyielding
;

fidelity to truth,

of victorious opposition to hypocrisy and tyranny.

CONCLUSION.
It

seems

idle to discuss the question of the

Papacy

after arriving at

would negative conclusions on the three preceding points ; yet the title be exhausted without some reference to my change of views on hardly

The removal of disabilities and the Oxford Movement have brought the Church of Rome into prominence in this country once more ; in fact, it was only the insular prejudices of Englishmen
that institution.

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.


that closed their eyes to it for Christian body in the world.

23

many

Now we

years as by far the most powerful hear on every side of the

prospects of the re-union, or (in less diplomatic circles) conversion of England to the Church of Rome. I have heard a bishop naively

deprecating the question of the Disestablishment of the Church of England, on the ground that Catholic churches would be inundated
with a flood of converts, and its ministry would be quite unable to cope with the extraordinary labours imposed upon them. Catholic papers
are continually parading the most recent "converts," the construction of churches, the large ordinations of priests. But those of the inner

know that it is an open question whether the Church of Rome made any progress during the last twenty years her losses are enormous. Some two years ago a census was taken of the Catholic the result was whispered among the clergy population of London there were between 70,000 and 80,000 nominal Catholics in London alone who had practically abandoned the Church but it was carefully " The added cardinal does not want this to get into print." The papers only published the number of chapels erected and the multiplicircle

has

cation of those fragrant centres of holiness convents and monasteries. find the same condition when we examine what are called trium-

We

phantly
given

Roman

Catholic countries, of

some

of which

have had intimate

experience, and of others


in

carefully acquired knowledge.

The numbers
;

statistical tables are

misleading in the

extreme

they include
are,

nominal Catholics, of
throughout
life,

whom

millions in France

and Belgium alone

outside the pale of the Church. However, numerical extension or decrease does not affect whatever The Church of Rome has truth there may be in an institution.
recovered, sometimes with startling rapidity, from the gravest possible crises ; and an impartial truth-seeker must not be misled by the indifference of its members, or the degeneration of its clergy and religious

The Papacy is a living power, perhaps the greatest on earth, commanding the absolute obedience of 200 millions, and having a large It claims to have a divine origin, influence beyond its own frontiers.
orders.

and

to

be entrusted with divine powers

for the

guidance of humanity.

Now, in examining the pretensions of the Papacy to a divine institution, we are met at once by the difficulty mentioned in the preceding section. We really have no trustworthy record of the words of Christ. The authorities of the Church do not claim impeccability, and we know that the Church was certainly not immaculate even in its primitive state what could be easier than that an ambitious Church should have altered
;

documents to suit its purpose during the hundred years between the death of Christ and their appearance as the canonical Gospels? Remember that the primitive documents of other religions must have
been interpolated
in this

manner, from the Christian point of view.

24

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

Still, even if we accept the actual Gospels as faithfully recording the words of Christ, a more glaring contrast between the simplicity of Christ's words and actions and the proud, ambitious Papal Court that is supposed to have grown from them can scarcely be imagined. Every

religious teacher, every leader of men, has his favourites or his active officers ; and from the few simple words of Christ, which to indicate some such capacity in Peter, the most ardent but

more seem
most

dangerous of his

disciples,

we

are asked to infer the foundation of a

vast system that would have aroused the indignation of the Galilean One carpenter a thousand times more than the Jewish priestcraft did. of the most curious aspects of the history of every religion possessed of sacred documents is the marvellous discoveries that are continually

Those who reject the Papacy being made of hidden senses of the text. have a still greater difficulty in finding bishops and archbishops in the
text of the

own purposes
ings,

Gospel ; the Presbyterian does violence to the text for his the pure Evangelical is ever finding deeper mean; even and constructing dogmas or systems on one or other text of the

Gospel.

But

Roman

theology
words,

is

From

Christ's simple

"

Whose

a masterpiece of ingenuity in exegetics. sins you shall retain they are

retained," the whole hideous system of the Confessional is evolved ; from a medicinal remark of James comes the curious dogma of Extreme

Unction ; from some strong language of the sorely-tempted Paul is pressed Original Sin and Baptismal Regeneration ; from the farewell supper of Christ the extraordinary doctrines of the Eucharist and the Mass, with all their complicated ceremonies ; and the Immaculate
Conception is proved from a stray remark in the Genesis version of an old Babylonian legend. Scripture must not be taken alone, they tell But what is us ; tradition embodies revelation with equal authority.
tradition ?

Fathers what are

From the heterogeneous contents of the writings of the we to choose as revealed ? Well, the Pope is infallible

turns out that even he has no inner revelation or positive assistance in the matter ; he must be convinced from Scripture and tradition

but

it

ourselves, and it is extremely difficult sometimes to see the connection between his dogmatic conclusions and the scriptural data he
like

alleges for them. If it is hopeless

to

trace
it

the origin
is

of

the

hierarchy

of

the

Church of
it

Rome

in Scripture,

history

as a purely human institution. : it is as natural as the growth of

certainly not difficult to understand Follow its growth in ecclesiastical

any

civil

government.

The

extension of the Church and the growing exercise of reason on its tenets developed the already separated caste of priesthood into a powerful
administrative

and magisterial body. Its history is marked throughout by human passion ambition, intrigue, usurpation, and even coarser vices. Pope after pope has assumed the tiara from mere ambition, and

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.

25

has led, in the midst of a corrupt court, a life that was the very antithesis to that of Christ. It has ever been grasping for power, using it cruelly when obtained until men were driven to repel it, and then, with open

The obsequiousness, but secret diplomacy, planning to regain it. mantle of the Caesars has descended upon its chiefs, and Italian blood
flows in

veins throughout the world cruel, vindictive, crafty, and It aims at the disestablishment of other Churches it is dissembling. bound to hold that itself, the true Church, must be established. It
its
:

seeks

to

be thought

tolerant

it

quietly

teaches
of
in

doctrines
large

that

condemn without examination earnest men, some of them


justifies the

the the

moral

lives

bodies

of
It

most eminent

every land.

and its former persecutions on principles to which it still adheres, and which- it would be bound to put in practice Its clergy are notoriously out again if ever it became powerful enough. of the current of modern thought ; yet it terrifies its members into submission, and silences their criticism by the Index and the powerful machinery of pulpit and confessional that bears it out. It fosters religious orders in which there is only a glow of religious life about once in two centuries their ordinary characteristics are ignorance, idleness, and unceasing strife. Its gorgeous ceremonies have little more spirit in them than a spectacle at Olympia it neglects the poor in thousands " " Life of Manning /ts offices are an endless source of mischief (for the reveals no unusual proceedings) ; its clergy and bishops are ignorant,
Inquisition
; ; ;

its

apologists

repeatedly

guilty

of

misrepresentations,
their civil

its
life.

laymen

restricted in their literature,

and even
I

and

political

In
tions

my

progress from have influenced

Rome to me but
;

Rationalism

many

other considera-

can do
priests

two or three of them.

Most of the

no more than mention who have preceded me in

detaching themselves from the Church of Rome within the last few years have been powerfully affected by the history of Biblical Criticism, and the same line of inquiry has had much weight with me.
impossible to be unmoved at the conduct of Catholic apologists yielding inch by inch to the advance of Higher Criticism, and then,
It is

admirable coolness, adopting the positions they so vigorously denounced. Genesis, upon which pious speculations were so abundant fifty years ago, we must now look upon as an expurgated edition of a book of Babylonian legends of unknown origin, and so on with the rest
with of the Old Testament
doctrine,
if it is
;
.

yet even now, after


at

all

concessions, the Catholic

all, certainly as it is interpreted by It is not necessary at the present untenable. absolutely to enumerate errors found in the Bible. day Mysteries likewise in the course of time became intolerable to me.

means anything

Leo XIII.,

If there

were an

infinite,
;

any science concerning him would naturally

contain mysteries

but

many

of the

dogmas of

Christianity are

more

26

FROM ROME TO RATIONALISM.


mysteries.

was consoled by the philosophical meet doubts about the Trinity, the but I came at length to regard them Incarnation, and the Eucharist as directly contrary to reason, and therefore, according to Catholic
than
I

For a time
offered

quibbling which

is

to

principles even, to

be rejected.

Again,
;

undoubtedly eliminating supernaturalism

its

the progress of science is torch has illumined the

deep abysses of space and the veiled features of the past, and it is every day proclaiming the self-sufficiency, the self-containedness of the universe, of which man and man's history is but an incidental product. Finally, looking back over the whole scheme of evidences I have criticized, I cannot think that an all-merciful God would have devised such a labyrinth through which men must pass to a knowledge of himis hopelessly beyond the if they majority of men must be on the authority of their religious guides. And when we remember the gross philosophical ignorance of those guides, and the brilliant galaxy of modern thinkers who stand against them, such an act of faith cannot reasonably be demanded. I have now explained briefly and simply my mental experiences of the past ten years. I might have stifled my doubts from the commencement I did not think it honest to do so. With the sword of Damocles overhead, I have pursued my inquiry to the end, and avowed my convicAnd for that I stand before the world branded as a criminal by tions. the Church of Rome. My dearest friends have abandoned me as I were stricken with leprosy, if they did not indeed turn upon though me with bitter and insulting language, for I was an apostate, and my word availed nothing against my calumniators. And this is an age of and Christian charity. May the days soon come in light and freedom which men will agree to differ on intellectual questions, and unite in when social ostracism will not be the inevitable consesocial activity

self.

The problem
it

believe,

quence of honesty.

ationalist

ress

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THE objects of the Rationalist Press Committee are issue or assist in the issue of Rationalist publications.
carry
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on a systematic distribution of Rationalist literature. The constitution of the Committee is as follows


of six

It

con-

HOLYOAKE, R. BITHELL, B.Sc., Ph.D., JOHN S. DRYDEN, F. J. GOULD, HENRY SAVERAUX, CHARLES E. HOOPER, C. T. GORHAM, and CHARLES A. WATTS.
sists
J.

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Messrs.

G.

Vacancies are

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The Chairman of the Committee is Mr. G. J. HOLYOAKE. The Treasurer and Business Secretary is Mr. CHARLES A. WATTS. (Note. The funds of the Committee are deposited in
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SONGS OF LOVE AND DUTY, FOR THE YOUNG.


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